College football Power Rankings after Week 8

ByESPN staff ESPN logo
Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Week 8 college slate left something to be desired but, given the way the year has gone, the lackluster schedule did little to deter the unpredictability of the season.

Cincinnati and Oklahoma, both undefeated with realistic College Football Playoff chances, were pushed by significant underdogs but survived to keep the hope of a perfect season alive. Other teams weren't quite as lucky as considerable favorites.

Penn State fell in nine overtimes -- yes, you read that right, nine -- to Illinois in Happy Valley while previously unbeaten Oklahoma State fell in Ames to Iowa State to disrupt this week's top 10.

Meanwhile, Michigan kept on winning ahead of an undefeated showdown with rival Michigan State next week. Alabama and Ohio State continued to rebound in impressive fashion after early season losses and the ACC balance of power has officially shifted.

All that in a "boring" week, eh?

Now that the action is behind us, it's time to take a look at this week's Power Rankings.

1.Georgia Bulldogs (7-0)

The top-ranked Bulldogs spent their off week trying to get healthy before their final run to a potential College Football Playoff spot. UGA coach Kirby Smart said quarterback JT Daniels was throwing more in practice, although he isn't ready to say whether Stetson Bennett III or Daniels will start against Florida on Saturday. Bennett started the past three games while Daniels was sidelined and played well, guiding the Bulldogs to victories over three ranked foes. Running back Kendall Milton is expected to miss time with a knee injury, and Kenny McIntosh has been bothered by a hamstring, so tailback depth is a possible concern heading down the stretch. -- Mark Schlabach

2.Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1)

This is not the Alabama defense of old, and there was a time Saturday night that the Crimson Tide actually seemed to be on their heels. But it was an interception by redshirt freshman Jalyn Armour-Davis and 47-yard return that changed the complexion of the game and fueled a 28-point fourth quarter, leading to Alabama's 52-24 victory over Tennessee. The Crimson Tide allowed 346 yards, but racked up 574 yards of their own offensively with quarterback Bryce Young throwing for 371 yards and two touchdowns. In his last two outings, Young has passed for 719 yards with six touchdown passes and no interceptions. -- Chris Low

3.Cincinnati Bearcats (7-0)

The Cincinnati offense woke up just long enough and scored just enough to fend off an upset-minded Navy, but the Bearcats went three-and-out four times and gained just 271 yards (5.3 per play) against a Midshipmen defense that had been allowing 370 yards per game and 6.1 per play. Desmond Ridder went 18-for-30 for just 176 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. Up 27-10 and cruising, theBearcats allowed 10 late points and an onside kick recovery to give Navy, a 27-point underdog, a chance to tie or win, before Arquon Bush's interception finally sealed the win. This was easily Cincinnati's least impressive performance of the season, but the Bearcats survived and advanced. Next up: a trip to Tulane. -- Bill Connelly

4.Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1)

The Buckeyes dominated Indiana, scoring 44 points in the first half. The offense has now put up 35 or more points in the first half for four straight games, which is tied for the longest streak in a season over the last 15 years. Quarterback C.J. Stroud has started to hit his stride and finished the game with 266 yards and four touchdowns, and running back TreVeyon Henderson had two touchdowns of his own. The Buckeyes have been trending in the right direction the past few games and the team is playing as well as it has all season. -- TomVanHaaren

5. Michigan Wolverines(7-0)

The Wolverines avoided any chance of a loss looking ahead to its game against Michigan State and handled Northwestern in a 33-7 win. Minus a few fumbles, it was a relatively uneventful game that saw Michigan finish with 294 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground. The defense held Northwestern to 233 total yards of offense and had a fumble recovery and an interception, with a blocked punt on special teams, as well. Michigan moves to 7-0 as it now prepares for the short trip to East Lansing to take on the Spartans. -- Tom VanHaaren

6.Michigan State Spartans (7-0)

The open week came at a good time for MSU, which is 7-0 but fortunate to win two of its past four games (Nebraska, Indiana). Mel Tucker's team will look to attack downfield against a Michigan defense that hasn't faced great passing offenses this season. The Spartans average 9.2 yards per attempt, which ranks third in the Big Ten. Top receivers Jayden Reed, Jalen Nailor and Tre Mosley all average more than 15 yards per reception. The extra week should help quarterback Payton Thorne reset, as he completed a season-low 53.8% of his attempts against Indiana and had his first multi-interception game. -- Adam Rittenberg

7.Oklahoma Sooners (8-0)

How bad was the Sooners' first half when they trailed Kansas 10-0? The Oklahoma offense had nearly as many yards (75) on their first drive of the second half as they did in the first 30 minutes (78) and actually had one more first down (five to four). The Sooners eventually put up 35 points and 320 yards in the second half to pull away. But the Sooners are frustrated by their slow starts and struggles on defense. (Kansas hung around until the very end.) Winning 16 straight is an accomplishment, no doubt, as we've seen a record number of ranked teams lose this season. But the Sooners have been operating with some razor-thin margins. -- Dave Wilson

8.Oregon Ducks (6-1)

It appears the Ducks are making a habit out of playing down to their competition until they can't afford to. At the Rose Bowl Saturday, it happened again. Unranked UCLA put together a picture-perfect first quarter, going up 14-0 and making the Oregon defense look like it was made out of Swiss cheese. But Oregon responded with a 34-3 scoring run over the next two quarters, including a 43-yard touchdown run from Anthony Brown that seemingly put the game away. Oregon's defense forced Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson to beat the Ducks with his arm instead of his feet, and in the fourth quarter he nearly did. Thompson-Robinson led two touchdown drives while the Bruins defense picked Brown off twice. Yet the comeback collapsed at midfield as Thompson-Robinson exited the game with undisclosed injury. -- Paolo Uggetti

9. Ole Miss Rebels (6-1)

So maybe LSU coach Ed Orgeron was right. Maybe Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin was throwing him a smoke screen when he said quarterback Matt Corral was banged up and not a sure thing to play. Corral certainly looked OK when Corral went through warm-ups and started and sliced and diced the LSU defense running and passing. But maybe more impressive than that was the Ole Miss defense, which stepped up after allowing an opening-drive touchdown and didn't let the Tigers into the end zone the rest of the half and the third quarter in the 31-17 win. -- Alex Scarborough

10. Iowa Hawkeyes (6-1)

Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz on Wednesday spoke about how calling plays for the Hawkeyes isn't like when he played Tecmo Bowl as a kid. "I was looking for the reset button the other day and couldn't find it," Ferentz said. Quarterback Spencer Petras and the Hawkeyes' offense tries to reboot after a miserable performance on Oct. 16 at Purdue that featured only seven points, four interceptions and 271 yards. Petras needs to be sharper going forward, but he also needs help from a wide receiver group that has been largely irrelevant outside of Nico Ragaini. Iowa must have a better offensive plan when it falls behind in games or doesn't collect takeaways in bunches. -- Adam Rittenberg

11.Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1)

An open week and USC provided Notre Dame's choppy offense the opportunity to get well. The Fighting Irish had steady production from top running back Kyren Williams (138 rush yards, two touchdowns) and a passing game that broadened a bit, as Jack Coan featured freshman wideout Lorenzo Styles Jr. (57 receiving yards) and others. Notre Dame also kept an eye on the future by getting freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner a few passing opportunities. The Irish defense struggled to contain USC's Drake London and allowed 424 yards, but kept the Trojans out of the end zone until the first minute of the fourth quarter.--Rittenberg

12.Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-0)

The Demon Deacons served up another resounding reminder on Saturday that they can score with anybody in a 70-56 victory at Army. Sam Hartman was brilliant, with six total touchdowns and a career-high 458 passing yards, as Wake Forest remained the ACC's only unbeaten team. The Deacons have scored 35 or more points in all seven games this season, but they also gave up 416 rushing yards to Army and allowed the Knights to convert 12 of 19 third or fourth downs. Still, it was a defensive play by Wake Forest that turned the game around in the third quarter: Traveon Redd intercepted a fourth-down pass on a trick play and returned it 83 yards for a touchdown. -- Low

13.Texas A&M Aggies (6-2)

The Aggies were dominant against South Carolina, looking like the team many expected to see before the season. The defensive line led a smothering performance that held the Gamecocks to 15 total yards through three quarters, the fewest yards gained by an FBS team through that span in the past 15 seasons. Ainias Smith got the scoring started early with a 95-yard punt return in the first quarter, Jalen Wydermyer caught two TD passes,and the Aggies led 31-0 at halftime. A&M now heads into a bye week on a roll. -- Wilson

14.Kentucky Wildcats (6-1)

The Wildcats had an open date after losing for the first time this season, 30-13 at Georgia. With games remaining against Mississippi State (road), Tennessee (home), Vanderbilt (road), New Mexico State (home) and Louisville (road), Kentucky has a good chance at finishing 11-1, which would put them right in the mix for a New Year's Six bowl game (or even the SEC East title, if Georgia falters twice). The Wildcats defeated the (MSU) Bulldogs 24-2 last season, shutting out a Mike Leach-coached offense for the first time in his career. The Wildcats intercepted the Bulldogs six times in that win. -- Mark Schlabach

15.Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-1)

The Cowboys' loss to Iowa State didn't technically count as an upset, since the Cyclones were 7-point favorites. But OSU became the 9th top-10 team to lose to an unranked opponent, the most through the first 8 weeks of the season since 2007. This was just the second time the Cowboys have lost to Iowa State in Ames since 2011, an infamous OSU loss when the No. 2 Cowboys lost in double overtime. This time, the stubborn Cowboys defense held Breece Hall to 70 yards on 21 carries, below his average of 125 per game. But the Cowboys came up a yard short on fourth down at the Iowa State 41 with 1:09 left in the game, ending a chance at another OSU upset that led them to that eight-game winning streak. -- Wilson

16. Pittsburgh Panthers (6-1)

A year after being routed 52-17 by Clemson, Pittsburgh came through with a statement win on Saturday over the Tigers, a 27-17 beatdown that could have been even worse had the Panthers not racked up so many untimely penalties. Senior quarterback Kenny Pickett was again the star for Pitt, with 302 passing yards and two touchdowns. He also had a couple of gutsy runs in the fourth quarter to pick up key first downs. The Panthers stayed unbeaten in league play and are now two games ahead in the loss column in the ACC's Coastal Division. The victory was especially impressive because the Panthers played part of the game without two of their top playmakers, running back Israel Abanikanda and wide receiver Jordan Addison, both of whom exited with head injuries. -- Low

17.SMU Mustangs (7-0)

The Mustangs' offense continued to light it up against Tulane, with Tanner Mordecai going 30-of-42 for 427 yards, three touchdowns, no INTs and another TD run. The Mustangs had a season-high 612 yards of total offense, including 400 before halftime, becoming the first team in the FBS to have 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in any half against an FBS opponent this year. And they spread it around: Ten players caught passes and six players got a carry in the 55-26 win. -- Wilson

18. Baylor Bears (6-1)

The Bears had the week off after a 38-24 win over then-No. 19 BYU, a measuring stick in how real Dave Aranda's turnaround has been in Year 2. The Bears are 6-1 a year after starting 1-6. It's the biggest turnaround in the FBS, after a staff makeover following that disappointing first season. The addition of new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, who tutored Zach Wilson at BYU, has paid dividends: Quarterback Gerry Bohanon is completing 66% of his passes for 1,563 yards with 12 touchdowns to just one interception. -- Wilson

19. San Diego State Aztecs(7-0)

A 20-14 win against Air Force kept San Diego State undefeated (7-0) and the Aztecs got it done with the usual formula: great defense, good special teams and enough offense. The win equals San Diego State's best start in 46 years and came against an Air Force team that had won four straight games. The Aztecs came into the game with the nation's top-ranked rushing defense (61.2 yards per game) and limited the Falcons' dangerous rushing attack to 192 yards -- well below their season average (336.4 mpg). In all seriousness, the highlight of the game might have been Matt Araiza's 81-yard punt. It's the second straight week he's boomed one beyond 80 yards. -- Bonagura

20. Penn State Nittany Lions(5-2)

The Nittany Lions went to nine overtimes with Illinoisbeforelosing 20-18, after closing as a 25.5-point favorite at Caesars Sportsbook. Quarterback Sean Clifford returned from an injury to start the game, completing 19 of 34 passes for 165 yards. The offense didn't get much going on the ground, as it finished with only 62 total yards rushing. The defense held Illinois to only 38 yards passing but gave up 357 yards rushing and a touchdown. There are only two other teams in the past 15 years to win against an AP top-10 opponent with fewer passing yards than the 38 Illinois had on Saturday (UCLA, 2010; Florida, 2014). Penn State now has two conference losses on the year, with games against Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State remaining. -- VanHaaren

21.Auburn Tigers (5-2)

It wasn't always pretty, but give the Tigers and first-year head coach Bryan Harsin credit for getting to the bye week at 5-2. Going on the road and beating a ranked Arkansas team was a big confidence boost. Bo Nix, who has struggled at times, put together one of his best performances in recent memory, completing 80.8% of his passes. We'll see whether he can carry the momentum through the bye and if the defense can benefit from the extra time to prepare for a difficult offense in Ole Miss. -- Alex Scarborough

22.UTSA Roadrunners (8-0)

The Roadrunners continued their historic season, being ranked for the first time, then earning their first-ever win in Ruston over Louisiana Tech to move to 8-0, tying the program record for the most wins in a season (set in 2012 by Larry Coker). UTSA did it with the same formula that's carried them all season. Sincere McCormick ran for 113 yards and three touchdowns, and Dadrian Taylor returned an interception 51 yards for their fifth defensive touchdown of the season, which ties Ohio State for the most in the FBS. -- Wilson

23. Iowa State Cyclones (6-2)

Just when the Cyclones season looked over, things started to click. Iowa State continued a program tradition by knocking off a top 10 Oklahoma State program in Ames, this time to the tune of 24-21. The win made it three straight for Matt Campbell's team, which many had written off after its second loss of the season in late September. With less than a month until a game at Oklahoma, Campbell's squad still has room to improve but things appear to be moving in the right direction. --Shea Carlson

24.Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (6-1)

Things were going mostly according to plan for Jamey Chadwell's Chanticleers on a tough Wednesday night at Appalachian State. They led 27-21 in the third quarter, and they had scored on five of their first seven drives. They were struggling to slow down an explosive Mountaineers passing game, but the offense was doing its job. Then the offense stopped doing its job. Coastal punted on its last three possessions, gave up 10 straight points to end the game and suffered its first regular-season loss in 23 months. The Chants have excellent odds of winning out to finish 11-1, but they no longer control their own destiny in the Sun Belt East. -- Connelly

25.Virginia Cavaliers (6-2)

With much of the focus falling on undefeated Wake Forest and upstart Pittsburgh with Kenny Pickett leading the charge, the Cavaliers' 6-2 start has gone somewhat unnoticed. Big losses to North Carolina and Wake Forest marred the first half of Virginia's season but the Cavs have quiet won four straight, including Saturday's 48-41 win against Georgia Tech. Week 9 will bring a test in the form of a trip to BYU followed by games against Notre Dame and Pitt but, for now, the Cavaliers start has them in the Power Rankings. --Carlson

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